Brand building through storytelling

Stories by Rona

The walking life

It started years ago as a multi-tasking move. With one brisk daily walk to work, I could turn my commute into a fitness program. No more jostling for space on crowded subway cars, no more sprints to the gym between meetings. Come to think of it, maybe I wouldn’t need the gym at all (no more annual fees). What a plan!

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A fine funeral

Way back before anyone I knew had died, I cringed at the very thought of funerals. I pictured dark rooms, fussy floral arrangements, ministers droning pieties about people they’d never even met. I’ve since discovered that a funeral can be rich in potential—for creativity, for celebration, for a deepened connection with the world. And I’ve developed a few rough working principles about the elements of life’s most underrated ritual.

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Five years old and smitten by love

Adults belittlingly call it “puppy love.” But there’s nothing trivial about the tenderness of children’s first longings for each other, or the anguish of their first heartbreaks. That’s what I learned from the five-year-old boy who named his doll Rona after me.

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A word of advice

At the bottom of my purse lies a battered leather case containing a fistful of cards from people with corner-office titles: Executive Producer of This, Senior Vice-President of That, Grand Poo-Bah of Whatever. My favourite card puts them all to shame. It belongs to a much older woman who announces her well-earned role in life with one authoritative word: “Advice.”

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My Broadway Debut

At 12 I dreamed of winning the National Spelling Bee, but I went down to ignominious defeat in my Grade 6 class. I cried all the way home and later told the sad tale on my first date with my husband. Then I got a chance to appear on Broadway as an audience volunteer in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Good-bye, orthographic angst!

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Hats of my life

My mother died nearly 13 years ago, but for a fleeting second recently I could have sworn I saw her striding by—a gray-haired woman in a chiffon scarf, a billowing black raincoat and her signature touch, a broad-brimmed hat worn at just the right angle. It was my own reflection, proof that after a lifetime of doing things my way (which once included going bare-headed in heat waves and blizzards), I’m not all that different from my mother.

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Paper Flowers

This story, written when I was 15, was published in Ladies’ Home Journal in October, 1965, where it kept company with “What Americans Expect from Robert Kennedy.” A mortifying sidebar identified me as a “prodigy” who “sang in seven languages at a year and a half and, at three, composed what her mother…calls ‘shapely little narratives.’ The story was later cited in the annual Best Short Stories anthology edited by Martha Foley.

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Don’t call me dear!

My friends and I used to seethe when grizzled tradesmen called us “dear” and our husbands “Mr. So-and-so.” We vowed our kids’ generation would banish sexism once and for all. Too bad we didn’t take a stand against ageism. Now that we’re old enough to pay for attentive service, we’re getting “dears,” “sweeties” and “young ladies” from people young enough to be our children. This kind of faux endearment has a name: elderspeak. And the time to stop it is now.

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My first love

Robbie and I were five years old when he named his doll Rona after me. We were going to get married someday. Relationships like ours are belittlingly called “puppy love,” yet there’s nothing trivial or cute about the tenderness of children’s first longings for each other or the anguish of their first heartbreaks.

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Mothers and mentors

Why every young woman needs a wise female friend to cheer her on—someone who never worried about her report card or grounded her for missing curfew.

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